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The East African : Dec 1st 2014
The EastAfrican NEWS NOVEMBER 29 - DECEMBER 5, 2014 5 face of Boko Haram, Al Shabaab insurgency Some countries like Angola and Ghana, have funded their arms build-up from oil revenues. Others like Kenya are facing domestic and foreign insurgency threats, and in countries such as South Sudan, the arms build-up is motivated by the regime’s desire to hold onto power. For Algeria, with billions of dollars in its coffers, it’s all about prestige. At a time when former North African hegemons Egypt and Libya are distracted by internal political squabbles, Algiers is striving for power and influence in the sub-region. Algeria now boasts the largest a backwater in the $1.75 trillion global military industrial complex, but this is now being challenged by data from SIPRI. Collectively, the region spends about $45 billion annually on defence, ranking ninth, just below Japan ($47 billion), in global military spending. On a continent facing rapid social, political and economic transformation, the 54 militaries of Africa have different and sometimes overlapping geo- political interests. While in some cases increased military spending is the natural result of economic growth, or a response to emerging security threats, in other cases “it represents a squandering of natural resource revenues, the dominance of autocratic regimes, or emerging regional arms races,” according to SIPRI. Only seven of these militaries have not increased their defence spending in the past 10 years. Uganda shows off its military might in 2006 at the Kololo ceremonial grounds in Kampala. Picture: File defence budget in Africa. Since 2004, its military spending has more than doubled, with an increase of 176 per cent. Last year, the country spent $10.4 billion, making it the first African nation to tip its defence budget beyond the $10 billion mark. According to SIPRI, ongo- ing militarisation is fuelled by Algeria’s “desire for regional power status, the powerful role of the military, the threat of terrorism — including from armed Islamist groups in neighbouring Mali — and the availability of oil funds.” Algeria, Africa’s largest coun- try, is also facing serious security challenges in the Maghreb region. The ousting of Libyan strong- man Muammar Gadaffi has allowed extremists such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic Maghreb to fill the void left by the former regime and post-war chaos in Mali has made also the country a terrorist safe heaven. More than 12,000 troops, re- quiring billions of dollars in combat equipment, are currently deployed to secure Algeria’s borders with Mali, Libya and Niger. Oil wealth has also support- ed a serious military build up in Angola, which often sees the troubled Central Africa region as its backyard. In 2013, the country became the second largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa, increasing its military spending by 36 per cent to reach $6.1 billion, and by 175 per cent since 2004. This is the first time that a country in sub-Saharan Africa has leapfrogged South Africa in military spending, which spent $4.1 billion in 2013, an increase of only 17 per cent since 2004. Government officials say Angola’s surging defence budg- et aims to professionalise its 100,000 strong force, which is dominated by Soviet-backed MPLA fighters from the country’s long-running civil war. But continuing conflict in the Great Lakes region, especially the Central African Republic, which is in a freefall, will see Angola intensify its activities in a region where it has intervened militarily in the past. The country could also be in a silent arms race with the region’s powerhouse, South Africa, which has in the past financed wars against the MPLA regime. Angola and Algeria both now have military burdens of 4.8 per cent of GDP, the highest in Africa according to recent data. Flush with petrodollars from recent oil recoveries, Ghana more than doubled its military spending from $109 million in 2012 to $306 million in 2013. This figure looks modest com- pared with what other regional powers are spending. However, at this rate, Ghana’s defence budget is likely to surge to over $1.5 billion dollars by 2020. The military is playing catch- up after years of neglect by democratically elected presidents who distrusted it for its past involvement in politics.
Nov 24th 2014
Dec 8th 2014